Despite the Hysteria, Experts Say that Iran Poses Very Little Threat to the West or Israel

Top Iran Experts Say that Hysteria Is Baseless

The war drums are growing very loud.

For example, the former head of Mossad – who has been strongly opposed to war against Iran – has now thrown in the towel, and more or less said that war is inevitable after the car bombs in India, Thailand and Georgia (even though it is not clear that Iran is guilty for those attacks).

But AP notes:

[Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Ronald] Burgess tells senators Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict.

[Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper says it’s “technically feasible” that Tehran could produce a nuclear weapon in one or two years, if its leaders decide to build one, “but practically not likely.”

Indeed, Iran has not attacked another country in hundreds of years. (In the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq was the initial aggressor.)

Moreover, American, Israeli and European leaders all say that Iran has not even decided whether or not to build a nuclear bomb.

And – as the Christian Science Monitor notes – even if Iran did build a bomb – it probably wouldn’t pose much of a danger:

Shrill warnings of war or imminent apocalypse over Iran’s nuclear program have never been so strident, or so ominous.

A window is closing fast, the narrative goes, to prevent a fanatical and suicidal religious regime from acquiring the ultimate tools of Armageddon: nuclear weapons. Within months, some politicians claim, either Israel, the United States, or both may have no choice but to attack Iran to remove this “existential threat” to the Jewish state.

The world is facing another Hitler, declares Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and this moment of decision is akin to the eve of World War II. Iran is a threat to Israel and “a real danger to humanity as a whole,” warns Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The tone on the US presidential campaign trail is no less dire.

***

In fact, say analysts and nonproliferation experts who have studied the effect of the bomb on countries, coexisting with a nuclear-armed Iran – or at least a nuclear-capable Iran – may well be possible, even inevitable, whether a military strike delays that outcome or not.

Analysts say Iran is not an irrational, suicidal actor that can’t be deterred. Nor do they believe it is determined to destroy Israel at all costs. A recent Israeli think tank simulation of “the day after” an Iranian nuclear test came to the same conclusion: that nuclear annihilation will not automatically result.

***

If Iran were to become a nuclear power, the most immediate question would be what it means for Israel, where warnings have reached histrionic heights.

“Absolutely nothing will happen,” says Martin Van Creveld, an Israeli historian and author of some 20 books on military strategy. “Israel has what it takes to deter Iran, and the Iranians know it.”

Mr. Van Creveld is implying that Israel’s own nuclear arsenal of an estimated 200 warheads would prevent any Iranian first strike. Israel has the only such arsenal in the Middle East, and – unlike Iran’s program – it has never been subject to UN inspection or safeguards.

“Say they build one bomb – it’s not good enough. They need how many – 2, 3, 5, 10, 20? And that will take them a long time, so it’s all nonsense,” says Van Creveld. Iran is “not going to commit suicide by dropping the bomb – or even threatening to drop the bomb – on us.”

***

In Israel, even talking about living with a nuclear-armed Iran has long been taboo because it might appear to concede that what the US, Israel, and Europe have declared “unacceptable” is, in fact, acceptable. Yet that was the scenario of a simulation last October by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an Israeli think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University, that gave insights into what might happen across the region if Iran became a nuclear state.

The surprising result, the day after a hypothetical Iranian nuclear test, was not war. Instead, all the main players – from Washington to Moscow to Tel Aviv – adjusted rather easily to the new reality, with few dramatic changes in behavior.

Even Iran, rather than wielding its handful of new atomic bombs as a sword of Damocles over a fearful region, attempted “to use them to reach an agreement with the major powers to improve its strategic standing,” according to the INSS report on the simulation published in January.

“The sky won’t fall the day after,” says Yoel Guzansky, a research fellow at INSS who shaped the simulation and was an Iran specialist in the Israeli prime minister’s office for four years until 2009.

***

NATO says it is “unlikely” that Iran would pledge nuclear protection of its proxies like Hezbollah – and makes no mention of sharing such hard-won nuclear technology with them, which is a frequent refrain of hawks and doomsday politicians.

[Geneva-based Iran specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Shahram] Chubin states in his book on Iran’s nuclear ambitions that “there is no reason to believe that Iran today, any more than Saddam Hussein earlier, would transfer WMD [weapons of mass destruction] technology to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or Hezbollah.”

Likewise, proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione, in his 2007 book “Bomb Scare,” points out that nations like Iran and North Korea are “not the most likely sources for terrorists since their stockpiles, if any, are small and exceedingly precious, and hence well guarded.”

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  • http://blogdredd.blogspot.com/ Dredd

    The agnotology surge is at the foundation of the fear and paranoia surrounding the lust for war against Iran.

  • name

    Depsite? Is that a perfectly cromulent word?

  • LocalHero

    Well, whatta-ya-know. An even-handed, balanced discussion about Iran.

  • terryc

    Well what do you know, a Chamberlain moment about Iran.

  • http://www.thehomeforsurvival.com Survivor Mike

    Nice post – very similar to what Ron Paul has been saying.

    • http://DailyCrux Bill Porter

      Ron Paul…Oh yeah, that Boris Karloff impersonator who thinks A. Lincoln was a war crimonal!

  • rb

    The “Israel is the center of the world” crowd is very vocal. History has shown that Israel won’t use nuclear weapons, and that when both sides have nuclear weapons, that neither side will use them (US/Russia, US/China, Russia/China, India/Pakistan). So, I am more concerned with the Shia vs Sunni conflict as the reason Iran wants nuclear weapons. This conflict has been playing out for over 1000 years, and I think the Shia religious leaders running Iran want all the marbles. What do the experts think?

  • Alexander

    “[Geneva-based Iran specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Shahram] Chubin
    states in his book on Iran’s nuclear ambitions that “there is no
    reason to believe that Iran today, any more than Saddam Hussein
    earlier, would transfer WMD [weapons of mass destruction] technology to
    terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or Hezbollah.”

    Glad you added this update to the post after my critical comment, which I see you decided not to post. However, if you’re going to quote Chubin, give page number and context. Chubin is Iranian, so suspect when you cite him as your primary source, especially without context and page numbers.

    The New Republic review of his book <a href="http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/the-new-hegemon#"here states, “It was not the conflict in Iraq that most vividly advertised Iran’s
    regional ambitions; it was the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah
    in Lebanon. From the outset, Israel and the United States blamed Iran
    for the fighting. Tehran denied a direct role in causing the conflict
    (although it is difficult to believe that Hezbollah would have done as
    it did without consulting Tehran), but heaped praise on Hezbollah (even
    as Sunni regimes were condemning the Shia movement) and supplied it with
    sophisticated weaponry.” Moreover, according to Chubin, this reviewer states, “Chubin’s
    analysis does not hold much hope for negotiations to stop Iran’s nuclear program.”

    Saddam Hussein did not have a record of supplying any weapons to terror groups. But Iran does: <a href="http://www.sudantribune.com%2FIranian-weapons-pass-through-Sudan%2C37331&ei=ntprUMP3IcqP0QGS14CYBQ&usg=AFQjCNGs3nGWTIlK7g1YNOlwR_uWcOF3eQ&sig2=BWtnU1wkhl-m9DX3JCN6bA&quot; here, <a href="http://www.haaretz.com%2Fblogs%2Feast-side-story%2Fdeath-of-hamas-official-won-t-stop-flow-of-arms-from-iran-syria-to-gaza-1.444651&ei=ntprUMP3IcqP0QGS14CYBQ&usg=AFQjCNGuzg61XuF-awoqD_PA2NNMpGOhDg&sig2=LNt7hKvNO78pHv6wNCH6UA"here etc. Moreover, Iran (unlike Saddam’s Iraq) is run according to a certain fundamentalist Islamic ideology that finds Israel’s existence offensive to their belief system. Therefore there is indeed reason to believe that this is exactly what Iran would do.

    (And even if you remain a skeptic on this issue, it is a fact that Israelis very much BELIEVE that Iran wants to destroy their country, especially those whose homes (and loved ones) have been hit by missiles from Gaza and Lebanon. Therefore, any plan to change the direction of Israeli action must address this belief.)

    Since you seem to have a heavy dovish bias, I will be surprised – but pleased – if you choose to publish this comment in the name of open discussion.

 

 

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